How Do I Know if My Child Is Ready to Babysit?

By Gail Platts

You may be thinking the answer to that question is a simple and magical number, but there is more to it than that. When deciding if your child is ready to babysit, age is not the only thing to consider. Maine does not have a minimum age requirement for a child to babysit. In fact, few states have regulations about the age that a child can babysit or even be home alone. Children mature at different rates and you will want to assess your child’s physical and emotional development and maturity. Children who seem ready to stay at home alone may not necessarily be ready to care for younger children. Caring for younger children is a big responsibility.

The following questions may help you decide whether your child is ready to babysit:

  • Does your child demonstrate responsible behavior?
  • Does your child obey rules and make good decisions?
  • How does your child respond to unfamiliar or stressful situations?
  • Does your child want to assume the responsibility?
  • Is your child able to follow directions?
  • Can your child solve problems independently?
  • Is your child capable of calmly handling unexpected situations?

A part of being a responsible babysitter is mastery of some basic safety skills. Does your child know what to do if an unexpected visitor comes to the door? Can your child handle minor first aid situations? Do they know what to do and who to call in an emergency? Knowledge of basic first aid, how to identify what is an emergency and when to call 911 is helpful information for the babysitter to have. You may want to consider enrolling your child in a safety course such as the Babysitter’s Training offered by the American Red Cross or a Safe Sitter class. In these programs, participants work in groups to practice problem-solving and develop leadership skills. They learn about child development, basic first aid and activity planning with a focus on keeping the children in their care safe. Attending one of these programs can help the child feel more secure and confident in their abilities as a babysitter. Most parents prefer to hire someone who’s taken a course. Volunteering to work as a mother’s helper is another way to help your child gain confidence and experience. A mother’s helper assists with child care while a parent is at home and may also include preparing simple meals and light housekeeping.
Before your child accepts any babysitting job, you will want to go over your expectations with them. Your child should never accept jobs from strangers. They should only work at the homes of people they know and where they feel comfortable. They should never take a job without running it by their parent or guardian first. Parents should also discuss with their child what days and times they can accept a babysitting job, if they can babysit on school nights, and how late they can stay out.

Babysitting can be very rewarding; financially, as well as a great way for your child to develop leadership skills and confidence, but it is a big responsibility. Don’t be afraid to say no if you feel your child needs more time to mature, for their safety, and the safety of the children they may be watching.
Before your child accepts any babysitting job, you will want to go over your expectations with them. Your child should never accept jobs from strangers. They should only work at the homes of people they know and where they feel comfortable. They should never take a job without running it by their parent or guardian first. Parents should also discuss with their child what days and times they can accept a babysitting job, if they can babysit on school nights, and how late they can stay out.

Babysitting can be very rewarding; financially, as well as a great way for your child to develop leadership skills and confidence, but it is a big responsibility. Don’t be afraid to say no if you feel your child needs more time to mature, for their safety, and the safety of the children they may be watching.
Here are some resources to check out:

Books:
  • Don’t Sit On the Baby!: The Ultimate Guide to Sane, Skilled, and Safe Babysitting
  • The Babysitter’s Survival Guide: Fun Games, Cool Crafts, Safety Tips, and More!
Gail Platts is a Certified Park and Recreation Professional who works for the Gorham Recreation Department where she plans programs for adults and teaches a variety of leadership programs for youth focused on communication skills, cultural competency, creative problem solving, and safety. She has her Masters Degree from USM School of Human Development and is a First Aid/CPR/AED/Babysitter and Wilderness First Aid Instructor with the Red Cross.